Iraqis Stage Sweeping Pro-Coalition Demonstrations
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2003 Pro-coalition demonstrators gathered throughout Iraq Dec. 10 to protest terrorist actions and urge their fellow Iraqis to take action against anti-coalition forces.
Coalition Provisional Authority officials reported major demonstrations in as many as eight cities by a sweeping representation of the Iraqi people: Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis and Christians among them.
Although the CPA estimated participation at 15,000 to 20,000 people, Iraqi police and media sources cited numbers ranging from 100,000 to 1 million.
The demonstrations, organized by the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, took place in every major Iraqi city except Tikrit and Mosul, officials said.
In Baghdad, the scene of the largest demonstration, an estimated 5,000 Iraqis carried banners and chanted slogans opposing violence by Saddam Hussein loyalists and other insurgents. A CPA spokesman said the demonstration was initially planned to take place over a one-mile area, but that it extended an additional half-mile as the crowd swelled beyond expectations.
Iraqi Shia leader Moqtada Sadar -- who had previously been an outspoken opponent of the coalition -- spoke at the demonstration, condemning terrorism and the violence inflicted by the insurgents. In Ramadi, a former Baathist stronghold about 60 miles west of Baghdad, Iraqis demonstrated at the provincial council headquarters.
U.S. Central Command officials said some 200 men, women and children carried banners and chanted slogans condemning terrorism an encouraging development, they said, as Ramadi has been a site of persistent anti-coalition activities since post-war reconstruction efforts began.
CENTCOM officials applauded the strong showing of support during the demonstrations, which they said demonstrates increased cooperation between local Iraqis and coalition forces.
The increased cooperation, they said, reflects the Iraqi's desire for a safe and secure environment and is resulting in more tipsters coming forward to provide information about insurgents and their activities.